Opening May 26, the U.S. Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale will present installations exploring different facets of the theme “Dimensions of Citizenship.” The curators (Niall Atkinson, associate professor of art history at the University of Chicago; Ann Lui, assistant professor at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, or SAIC, and co-founder of Chicago-based Future Firm; Mimi Zeiger, a Los Angeles-based architecture critic, curator, and educator; and associate curator Iker Gil, director of MAS Studio and SAIC faculty member) have commissioned seven architecture and design teams to each explore a specific aspect of the Pavilion’s theme, grappling with questions of belonging, sovereignty, and ecology as they investigate how citizenship is represented at different scales.
“We all occupy different, overlapping categories of space at the same time, from the level of the neighborhood, to the nation, to the planet as a whole,” said the curators in a statement. “The installations make it clear that the stakes of citizenship will be exceedingly high in the years to come.”
Artists Amanda Williams and Andres L. Hernandez of Chicago will consider the idea of belonging at the scale of the citizen, collaborating with Chicago artist Shani Crowe, known for her creations of braided hair. Their installation “Thrival Geographies (In My Mind I See a Line), planned for the Pavilion courtyard, will investigate how race shapes notions of identity, shelter, and public space in historically African-American communities.
Led by Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang is charged with a focus on “civitas”—how the design of urban public spaces intersects with citizenship and empowerment. For the project “Stone Stories,” hundreds of cobblestones will be shipped from a historic site along the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee, where the Chicago firm has been working, to Venice, creating a platform for sharing the stories of Memphis residents. Studio Gang was inspired, in part, by the efforts of citizens there to remove two Confederate statues from public spaces.
New York–based landscape architecture studio SCAPE, founded by 2017 MacArthur Fellow Kate Orff, will address citizenship at a regional scale, taking the Venetian Lagoon as a case study of the relationships between ecology, infrastructure, and climate. The project, titled “Ecological Citizens,” will also present solutions and design interventions for protecting environmentally fragile areas.
Zooming out further still, Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman will challenge perceptions of national boundaries with their project “MEXUS: A Geography of Interdependence,” which highlights eight watershed systems shared by Mexico and the United States.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro will partner with Laura Kurgan, associate professor at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University and director of the Center for Spatial Research, and Robert Gerard Pietrusko, assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, on “In Plain Sight.” The project will use satellite images and demographic data to visualize where people live, in order to consider citizenship at the global scale.
A team led by Keller Easterling—an architect, writer, and Yale University professor—will investigate how the digital network transcends national borders, facilitating the free movement and exchange of people and ideas. Their web-based platform “MANY” will attempt to match the talents of migrating populations with opportunities around the world.
Architects El Hadi Jazairy and Rania Ghosn of Design Earth will present speculative designs for the cosmos through “Cosmorama”—three “geo-stories” that ask how one engages in exploration of the universe as human and ecological systems become more unstable on earth.
The University of Chicago and SAIC are institutional co-commissioners of the U.S. pavilion. Architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, co-founders of Grafton Architects of Dublin, are curating the overall Biennale around the theme “Freespace.” The exposition will run through November 25, 2018.
Coverage of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale sponsored by Hunter Douglas Architectural.